Psalm 31 begins with a plea for rescue. Listen to me. Protect me. Deliver me.
We talk like this to someone we believe can do what we so desperately need--and right away.
The metaphors that demonstrate the capability of salvation that are used in this psalm are rock and fortress--images that are solid, strong, capable of keeping the bad away.
And, sometimes, we are already in the bad and need rescue from it. Verse 4 says "Take me out of the net hidden for me," and then verbalizes the wish for rescue and the assertion that the Lord is capable of doing that rescue, "for you are my refuge."
The lectionary has chosen this psalm as a response to the reading from Acts that tells of Stephen's martyrdom. We can imagine his relying on it. I'm reading this psalm thinking about the flooding along the Mississippi River that has affected the community where I live and the communities of many of my family and friends. I'm thinking about the violence in the world between countries, within countries, and even within families. And I'm thinking about myself as I face surgery next month. "Listen to me, O Lord. Protect me. Deliver me. Take me out of this net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge."
Prayers in time of distress allow us to admit that our lives are not perfect now nor are they going to be. We will have difficulties, we will have enemies, we will be in scary circumstances, But, we have somewhere to turn.
Whether our enemy is human or nature or, as in my case right now, a failure of my own body to behave the way I would rather it have, we can pray to the Lord, our faithful God:
My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.
Save me not because I have earned salvation. Save me because you demonstrate steadfast love.